The term “baby sign” is all the rage right now. What is “baby sign” and how can you use it with your little one?
What is “baby sign”?
Baby Sign refers to signs taken from a formal, organized language, such as American Sign Language (ASL) to support early developing communication interactions. Baby sign and gestures typically represent one-word phrases and do not follow and grammar rules.
I don’t know sign language. Is there a program to use?
There are a lot of programs available. To be honest, many look wonderful. However, my of the educators I know who have used sign with young students and their own children say that they do not follow a program and introduce signs that fit into their daily routines. Many suggest the use of a paper, poster, book, even YouTube videos to introduce the signs to themselves so they know how to sign to their little ones.
This chart from Babysignlanguage.com is a great visual to print out and reference at home.
This is another great chart, with pictures, and more information on signing from http://www.welcomebabyuc.org
In an article by Brenda Seal, PhD, CCC-SLP called “About Baby Signing”, Seal addresses the importance of introducing signs that are developmentally appropriate for little ones. Seal compiled a list of 25 signs that are recommended to introduce to tyically developing, preverbal babies. Click here for Seal’s article About Baby Signing
If you are still looking for a program, be sure to check out early intervention programs offered by your state. For example, in California, First Five centers often offer baby sign. Also, Signing Time DVDs are engaging and entertaining for little ones.
How do I introduce signs?
Think about how you talk to your baby. You talk throughout the day: changing diapers, getting dressed, eating, playing, taking a bath, etc. Think about times when it would be most helpful for your little one to be able to communicate a want or need to you. Start there! For example, if it would be most beneficial for your little one to be able to communicate when “all done” with eating. Start with introducing the sign for “all done” when eating. Then think about other times, throughout your day when you use the phrase/concept “all done”. Use the sign WITH your verbal language throughout your day. Right there you are modeling verbal language AND signs to your little one.
*Know the when teaching signs such as “more” and “all done”, babies will overgeneralize these signs. That’s developmentally appropriate, but continue modeling the appropriate use of these signs.
Will using signs delay verbal language development?
Short answer: NO! When teaching and using signs with little ones, be sure to always use your verbal language, too. When you sign “mommy” always say “mommy” with it. While there is limited conclusive research supporting baby sign accelerating or improving verbal language development, it is suggested that parents who choose to learn signs and encourage their little ones to use signs may have already given their babies a genetic advantage for learning language!! (Seal, 2010)
My baby can hear. Why should I use signs?
Typically developing babies will say their first INTENTIONAL word around the age of one (there can be great variety in timing). However, babies understand language far before they are able to verbalize. Around 8 to 9 months of age, babies develop the ability to control their hands/arms for intentional signs and gestures. Introducing and using simple signs with your baby will help them communicate what they want and need. When babies communicate their wants and need, their wants and needs get met. They are happy babies and we are happy caregivers!
Have you use signs or gestures with your baby to support communication? I’d love to hear from you!